Academy 2, Dublin.
20th October 2020.
Tickets €14.45 Incl. booking fee.
Doors 7pm | +14's Show
Lewis Watson, it’s fair to say, has put in his 10,000 hours. Still only 27, the singer-songwriter from small-town Oxfordshire received his first guitar aged 16. He pretty much hasn’t stopped playing – or writing – since.
In 2012, in his late teens, Watson released his first EP, the pithily titled and exquisitely wrought ‘it’s got four sad songs on it btw’. Within a matter of days, he was fielding offers from multiple record companies, eventually deciding to partner with Warner Music, not least because of their deep heritage of working with the kind of artists he admired: artisan,
self-starting songwriters ranging from Neil Young to David Gray to Damien Rice. Over the next 18 months he released four more EP’s followed, in the summer of 2014, by his debut album ‘the morning’.
“That first record was with a major label and it was about ticking the boxes for them, in ways good and bad,” he reflects now. “But it’s my baby. You'll only ever have one first album and I'm still proud of those songs, they meant the world to me when I wrote them as a 20-ish year old and a lot of them still mean an incredible amount to me today.”
A heavy international touring schedule followed, as did some soul-searching and re-focusing: having had his fill of the major label system, for his second album Lewis pivoted back to his indie roots, releasing 2017’s ‘midnight’ on revered taste-making champion Cooking Vinyl. “The second album was my rebellious teenage stage: make an album without the input of anyone wearing a suit!” he smiles. “I wanted to release an album that was a snapshot of the music I was listening to at the time.”
And it worked, catching a spark with his devoted fanbase. But this meant, he adds ruefully, “a pretty crazy time for me. I think I did at least 150 gigs in 2017. And honestly towards the end of that year I started to resent being on the road – which I hated! Touring is one of the best bits of this wonderful career I’ve stumbled into. But it got a bit heavy towards the end."
So by the start of 2018, with those road-miles under his belt – not to mention some quarter of a billion cumulative streams of his songs – he was ready to refresh it all up again. Unable to write on the road, Watson had ideas brimming over and his third album firmly in his sights. “Each record I’ve made has been a very different process. The first album was made over two years with eight or nine producers and their go-to guys on drums and strings and arrangements. The second one was done over two-and-a-half weeks with my band, a super-quick album in the way albums used to be made. I was very much in the control of the sonics, so that posed a different set of challenges.”
For album #3, another change of tack: this time Watson, who studied music technology at Abingdon & Witney college, wanted to co-produce the album with his old collaborator Rich Wilkinson. He’d produced Watson’s very first session for Warner Music, in the famous Church studios in London’s Crouch End, so their history was deep and intuitive.
In the intervening years Wilkinson had built his own studio, 212, in Archway in north London. So, starting in summer 2018, the pair bunkered themselves in 212 for the best part of a year, with Watson taking occasional breaks away to write and hone his new collection of songs. “I’d lost that skill of production – I stopped producing music because I had no time,” he explains. “So with this one it was great to go back into that. We deliberately added lots of time to the making of this album so we could do that."
That focus, dedication and unhurried pace is there in spades on a warm, enveloping, melodically rich, lyrically empathetic album that Lewis Watson has titled 'the love that you want'. Explaining the title, he says: “A lot of people think I basically just write sad music. And I agree with that! Sad songs for me are much easier to write, as well as being much more important for me to write. When I sit down to listen to an album, I want it to wash over me, and I want to wallow. Ironically, I’m happiest when I’m sad listening to music, because I relate to that."
“So while this album is a lot more optimistic than my previous albums,” he continues, “it’s packaged in such a way that we still have that emotional rollercoaster. I’m tricking the listener into feeling those highs and lows, peaks and troughs. But I think fundamentally it’s still a fairly sad-boy album!”
The quietly glorious 'fly when i fall' was released as a low-key introduction to the new album in late 2019.